The hope of a revival of tourism in Tunisia increased this past week after the Hapag-Lloyd's Europa reportedly became the first cruise ship to return to the port of Tunis (La Goulette) since a total of 59 tourists were killed in two terrorist attacks last year.
A French newspaper covers the story with an article titled Arrivée du Premier Bateau de Croisière Depuis les Attentats du Bardo (Arrival of the First Cuise Ship Since the at Bardo Attacks). The article shows images of smiling merchants and happy tourists on camels at the port.
These images are a far cry from the last images we posted of Tunis last year. ISIS terrorists killed 38 tourists on holiday at the beach resort of Sousse in June 2015; earlier, terrorists gunned down 21 cruise passengers from Costa and MSC cruise ships at Tunis' Bardo museum, in March 2015. The terrorists slaughtered the passengers after they were transported by excursion buses from cruise ships at the port to the museum.
We were critical of the cruise lines which sailed passengers into danger and did not provide security or even issue warnings to the guests.
The head of La Goulette cruise terminal, Malek Ghanemitold, was recently quoted in a newspaper stating that the "the arrival of the liner Europa does not in itself signal the resumption of cruise liner activities in Tunisia. But it’s very important because it sends out a positive and reassuring message.”
We are hopeful that Tunis will not have a recurrence of terrorism but, as the last year proves, ISIS can attack anywhere. The U.S. travel warning for Tunisia indicates that ISIS, al-Qa’ida and other Islamic terrorist groups have targeted Tunisian government and security forces and popular tourist sites. The U.K. foreign office advises against all but essential travel to certain locations in Tunisia. (See the advisory for details). According to the U.K. advisory:
"A state of emergency is in effect in Tunisia, imposed after a suicide attack on a police bus on 24 November 2015. It has been extended a number of times, most recently on 19 September 2016 for an additional month to 19 October.
The threat from terrorism in Tunisia is high. Further attacks remain highly likely, including against foreigners. Security forces remain on a high state of alert in Tunis and other locations."
While many newspapers touted the reopening of the cruise terminal in Tunisia, the media largely ignored a missile attack against a UAE ship in the waters of Yemen.
On October 1, 2016, Houthi rebels destroyed an Emirati (UAE) vessel near the the Red Sea port city of Mokha.The Houthi rebels reportedly used a sophisticated Chinese anti-ship missile. The naval ship which was attacked was a high speed vessel ("HSV"), named the HSV 2 Swift. The ship was formerly operated by the U.S. Navy and recently had been leased to the UAE. There is a dispute whether the vessel was a civilian craft carrying humanitarian aid or an UAE navy vessel.
The Houthi (Shia) rebel group has been in armed conflict with the more moderate and Saudi Arabian backed Sunni government in Yemen. The U.S backs the Saudi Arabian-led coalition in their conflict against Yemen.
Although this missile attack is seemingly unrelated to shipping in the Mediterranean, the attack demonstrates the considerable danger posed in the Middle East by Shia militant groups, apparently supplied by Iran with sophisticated weapons. ISIS and al-Qu'ida operate in Yemen, which was the location of the infamous terrorist attack by Islamic terrorists against the U.S.S. Cole which was being refueled in the Yemeni port of Aden in 2000 when a suicide boat loaded with explosives attacked the U.S. ship and blew up. The terrorist attack killed 17 U.S. sailors and injured 39 more.
Several U.S. naval experts and commanders as well as senior NATO officers have recently expressed their surprise that ISIS has not attacked cruise ships in the Middle East.
The location of the attack is also critical. The Bah Al-Mandab straits are at the pinch-point between the Red Sea, flanked by Saudi Arabia on the east and Egypt to the west, and the Gulf of Aden to the south. Cruise ships sailing to and from the Mediterranean and to or from the Indian Sea pass through these straits.
You can see photographs of the dramatic damage to the NSV 2 here.
For more information about Yemen, watch this video about the war in Yemen.
The video showing the attack on the HSV 2 Swift is below.
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Photo credit: Top: By Dudva - Own work, CC BY-SA 3.0, commons / wikimedia. Middle: HSV 2 Swift - Live Leak; Video credit: Nachrichtensignal 301 YouTube